UK children’s charity condemns high court’s anonymity cut-off

Date: 14th April 2014

Children formerly involved in court proceedings may be named by the media once they are 18, the UK High Court ruled on Monday.

UK charity Just For Kids Law, which intervened in the case, condemned the decision, which it warned could deter child victims and witnesses from coming forward and impede the rehabilitation of young offenders.

The ruling means that children will have less protection than vulnerable adults, who are afforded anonymity for life under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. It also means that all child victims and witnesses can named by the media once they become adults, even if they were promised anonymity at the time and proceedings took place many years earlier.

The judge Sir Brian Leveson said the decision has 'wide implications' not only for young defendants but also for victims, witnesses, others concerned in proceedings and the media. He recognised that victims and witnesses need 'individual and tailor-made protection', but said 'it would be wrong to seek to create a solution out of legislation that was simply not designed to have regard to what is now understood of their needs'.

Shauneen Lambe, director of Just for Kids Law, said the 'damaging and concerning' ruling could impact on anyone who historically came forward as an anonymous child victim or witness. Lambe pointed to the provision in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) stating that when a defendant is a child when an offence is committed, the traditional objectives of criminal justice must give way to rehabilitation and re integration, rather than retribution (Article 40 of the UNCRC).